As business has become more globalized, international arbitration has become the world’s commercial court. More recently it has also become a check on governments which have taken a more less predictable track in their behavior. Here, two current examples come to mind - One where the Russian government has been ordered to pay US$50 billion over the disenfranchisement of Yukos Oil Company by an arbitral panel in the Hague. Also recently, arbitrators ordered Ecuador to pay US$2 billion to Occidental. Additionally, at least two large European companies owe their current state of ownership to arbitral rulings about buy out clauses.
Rethinking access to justice, civil justice reforms that are proposed by judges and policy-makers focus on improving dispute resolution and on streamlining the conventional court system. Improving access to justice has come to mean improving the way disputes are resolved – for example, by making the process quicker, cheaper, less confrontational, and easier to follow. Here the wider societal mission is increasing ‘access to justice.’
Arbitration is a form of dispute resolution frequently used in commercial contracts. Also, investment treaties between states often provide that arbitration will be used to resolve claims for violations of a treaty’s investor protection provisions. Where arbitration clauses are included in commercial contracts, they obligate the parties to use the arbitration process to resolve their disputes, and typically specify the rules that are to be followed in case a dispute arises. Underpinning the use and acceptance of arbitrations is a legal system and framework that can be used by participants and the acknowledgement of the relevant judicial systems to respect and enforce arbitral decisions. The use of commercial arbitration as a means of dispute resolution has received increased global attention in recent years in light of perceived advantages relative to the reforms of dispute resolution, particularly court systems. Among these advantages are the following:
Arbitration is voluntary and provides parties with the ability to select mutually agreeable rules and processes.
- Arbitration clauses provide parties greater flexibility and avenues for customization, including the ability to specify the number of arbitrators, the ability to specify arbitrators with relevant subject matter expertise, and the ability to choose their arbitrators.
- Arbitration potentially provides more control over the timetable, cost, and confidentiality of the dispute resolution process.
- From a societal perspective, arbitrations (as well as other alternative dispute resolution mechanisms) may help to alleviate the burden on domestic legal institutions.
The legal location of the arbitration (the “seat” or “place” of arbitration) and the arbitral institution (if any) that will administer the arbitration are typically stipulated in the contract between the parties. Neutrality, supportive courts, convenience, appropriate facilities, and availability of arbitrators are all potential considerations in the choice of the seat (this appears to be so even though the venue for hearings need not be at the seat if the parties agree otherwise). These factors may be weighed differently in designing arbitration clauses between parties in the same country as opposed to parties in different countries. For example, in international arbitrations with parties from different countries, choosing a neutral location is often desirable, while in domestic arbitrations choosing a convenient location for both parties may be paramount.
The aim of the conference is to bring together thought leaders from the dispute resolution community locally and globally to engage in high-level dialogue about the BVI’s next steps in becoming a global arbitration centre, now that it’s new Arbitration Act has come into force effective October 1, 2014.
We at Business BVI view this conference as the jurisdiction’s first major salvo in its promotional campaign directed at establishing the BVI as a global Arbitration Centre.
The theme for the conference is: New Horizons of Opportunity reflecting the national objective of broadening the menu of global business services offered by the jurisdiction.
We have assembled a broad cross-section of global and local thought leaders as speakers and presenters for the conference. These include; Dame Janice Pereira, Chief Justice Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, Lord Goldsmith, QC from London and the recently appointed Justice Barry Leon of the BVI Commercial Court and a several other eminent speakers from the United States, the United Kingdom, Finland, Barbados and here in he BVI.
AREAS OF FOCUS
Topics and areas of concentration for the conference will include the following key presentations and sessions:
- The Business of Arbitration - Economic Impact & Benefits
- The Courts and Arbitration
- Finding our Niche
- Why Arbitrate
- Hot Topics in International Arbitration
- Changing the Game: The BVI Arbitration Act, 2013
- One Million Opportunities
- The BVI International Arbitration Centre
WHO SHOULD ATTEND
This must attend event is designed for anyone with an interest in international arbitration in the BVI. With this in mind, the programme has been intentionally pitched to be of interest to persons and practioners with a keen appreciation and knowledge of international arbitration and those who are new to the space. Be they practitioners or SME executives keen on providing ancillary services to the planed arbitration centre. We see the conference adding to the continuum of knowledge and experience.
- Lawyers in private practice
- Corporate counsel
- In-house counsels
- Business professionals
- SME executives involved in international business activities
- Mid level department managers and senior public servants
- Managers in the hospitality and tourism sector
- Persons/businesses keen on providing support and ancillary services to the arbitration centre